Home of Romania’s former president Ceausescu opened to the public marts 2016.
After visiting the Casa Poporului I wanted to see how Ceausescu lived privately. The home of the former dictator of Romania is now open to the public. To be completely earnest I do not think it is anything special. But I kind of needed to see it. Please note that it is only open Wednesday to Sunday, between 10.00 – 17.00.
It is a nice house but for a dictator of a country it is kind of humble. The mosaics in the pool area was impressive. Liked the greenhouse on the first floor and the gold bathroom. According to guide the former president had a weak spot for peacocks. Some of the decedents are still living in the garden. And of cause comparing how the inhabitants lived then , the house provides for some pretty amazing features. Downstairs was a private cinema. According to the guide, Ceausescu like Westerns. Their clothes is still hanging in the cupboards, which made the thing come to live. The house is very original. It wasn’t robbed after the dethronement.
While Ceausescu kept his countrymen on strict food and fuel rations in an effort to repay the nation’s reported $13 billion foreign debt, he and his family enjoyed fabulous privilege. This understates that “liberté, egalité, fraternité” is only words. So while the Romanians went hungry, there was no shortage in the Ceausescu home. Romania did pay the loan faster than expected. The suffering of the people must have been great. Even when the loan was paid back, the sanctions wasn’t lifted. Ceausescu was without touch with the people. He lived in his own world with himself as the centre of attention, having big spectacles on the Stadium, celebrating his own grandness.
Megalomania is the first thing that I think of when addressing the former ruler of Romania. Maybe it is just that to much power in one person is not a good thing. And it is not just in history megalomania is seen. Just look towards the worlds greatest nation? As Marx said:
“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”.
Bucharest is close to being one of my favourite cities. I really like the atmosphere. I like just getting lost in this wonderful city. In many ways there is an adventure around every corner. One of the thing I definably wanted to see was Nicolae Ceaușescu grand vision. The massive Casa Poporului. People’s house.
Ceaușescu was a simple man with very little education. He rose to be the president and surrounded himself with a personal cult. He won respect in west when he didn’t want to send troops to fight in Czechoslovakia 1968. But he was a brutal Dictator and his vision of grandeur made Romania one of the purest countries in the former East block.
I think he was very careful about his legacy. He wanted to leave something to remember him by. The Casa Poporului and Bulevardul Unirii are the best examples. The boulevard leading up the Casa is longer than Champs-Élysées in Paris. (3000 m) and there is nearly no shops and it ends blind at the Casa Poporului. To build this nearly 40 000 people was relocated and 7 sq. km of Bucharest was demolished. In retrospect this is just a waste. I think most Romanians would like to live without. It commemorates a difficult time in history and the building are to very little use. Here’s a view down the boulevard.
Casa Poporului is a massive building. According to Wiki it is only second to the Pentagon building in size. 365,000 m2 and a estimated weight of 4,098,500 Tons. Only 400 of the 1100 rooms are ready to use. The building is sinking 6 mm a year. It comes complete with eight underground levels, the last one being an antiatomic bunker, linked to the main state institutions by 20 km of catacombs.
Ceaușescu was a paranoid man. According to the guide, he did not want air-condition afraid of being gassed. This meant elaborate tube system leading oxygen from outside ventilating the Casa.
The inside of the Casa is beautiful made. Between 20,000 and 100,000 people worked on the site, sometimes operating in three shifts. Thousands of people died at the People’s House, some mention a figure of 3,000 people (Wiki).
It is kind of depressing to see this monument of one mans ambition to build his own legacy on the bodies of his own population. Self-promotion instead of the good of the people. Today it is a wall of shame of a chapter of the Romanian history most people a trying to forget.
Bucharest is a wonderful City. The Taxies however not so much.
After a bone breaking ride from Sofia to Bucharest by minibus with no shock absorbers trough the night, I arrived in a ploughed field outside Bucharest in the middle of the morning. My options where limited. Two taxi drivers where waiting. You just know this is not going to be good. I did get him to use the meter. But of cause with a tax of 17 Lei instead of 1,39. This is just an example.
As I figured out it is the tariff on the metre that is the real deal breaker.
Above is seen a meter. This meter is completely legal. There is two tariff. One for driving and one for waiting in queue. (It happens :o)) This means that there is no Sunday afternoon tariff and no other kind of extras. If the driving tariff is not 1,39 Lei or there about. Something is fishy. Do not take anything for granted. Everything can be faked. I was told by a local, that an indications could be found on the side of the taxi as shown. If the data of the orange plate is outdated, it is definitely a pirate. The above picture is of cause of a legal one. It seems to me just a little bit to easy to falsified. And I know that when you see the meter, it is to late.
This leads me to the wonderful world of mobile data. You can of cause use your mobile phone to access a maps and here it is easy to see how many kilometres there are to your destination. Gives a rough estimate of how much the faire will be. Gives a bit of leverage.
Bucharest is a wonderful city to get lost in. And when you want to go home taxies are very cheap and available. It is possible to get taxi with apps. or just phone them to avoid the hassle.
I kind of like the rascal’s. It is just like putting your wit up against theirs and loosing. It is only a question how much.
When succeeding in getting a 1.39 Lei Taxi, I think it is important to tip. It is really not a question of survival. It is in the end of the day it is only money.
The train between Bucharest and Chisinau is absolutely wonderful. It have been unaffected by time and is a real treat for Soviet nostalgic like myself.
Buying a ticket in Bucharest main station Gara de Nord was absolutely no problem. Now 435km of pure nostalgia on wheels was ahead. In the front of the train there were 2 passenger carriers for local not going on the whole length of the trip. The implications of this is that this is going to be one time-consuming trip. The train will stop at every single village on the way. But as I see it, this makes it a true little adventure. It was warm like a Russian sauna when I entered the train. The smell of sausage, sweat and cigarettes was very strong. I asked if it was possible to open the window but according to the conductor it was not possible. I was in a 4 bed compartment. This is 2nd class. In 1st class there is only two beds. I shared the compartment with a man from Moldova. Most compartments where empty in my carriage. At 1700 sharp the train was set in motion. The little ventilation from the speed helped.
The slow journey trough the relatively flat landscape with frequent stops commenced. The train was signalling trough the night and the monotone sound of wheels on track had a mesmerising sound to it. The further we drove into the night, the colder it got. Lined has been provided by the conductor. And I had good use of the rough thick blanket At 0230 we arrived at the border. All the border and custom control was done. I had a problem, as the Moldavian side had to check my passport. Normally I will be very reluctant to leave my passport out of sight, but if you cannot trust border authorities, who can you trust. It took the better part of 3 hours before I got my passport back. I put it all to a part of the experience.
Now one of the weirdest scenes and part of the reason for going on this train. The changing of the wheels. In our modern efficient time this is relic from older civilised ages where travel took time. To prevent any invasion by rail the gauges is a little smaller in Moldova than in Romania. Hence they will lift the carriages and change the wheels. This is a very loud business and there is a lot of moving around and working with heavy tools. During this time you will find the toilet locked….They need to change the Engine too. In the next compartment there has been removed some steel poles to release wheels from the body. To separate the body from the wheels heavy duty hydraulic lifts are used. It is a massive job and takes 3-4 hours. During this time you are going to stay inside the train. I do not know if it is a military secret anymore, this business with the track, but I took some pictures with my phone. In II world war it didn’t hold the German invasion and nowadays it is just a mayor inconvenience. For non tourists I can see their point of view.
For me however it is a genuine adventure. This is what train travel is all about. Original and unique. It is just like looking into a world 40 years ago. A time machine on wheels. And gives you time to reflection or some much needed sleep (bring earplugs .o) ).
Facts: Bus 8 hours – Night train 13 hours 49 min.